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An Ornate, Magically Orchestrated, Fresh New Album From Art-Rockers GADADU

Hannah Selin, frontwoman and violist of art-rock band GADADU explains that her songs are “equally inspired by the natural and the supernatural.” The title of the art-rock band’s new album The Weatherman Is Wrong – streaming at Bandcamp – reflects both the unpredictability of Selin’s through-composed melodies as well as the world around us. It’s definitely an album for our time, even if the overall atmosphere is breathtakingly verdant and optimistic: the arrangements are nothing short of sumptuous. It’s as if Selin is saying, “Bring it on, we can handle it!”

The strings rises with a swirl and then echoes around in the album’s evocative opening track, Cicadas. Keyboardist Nicki Adams adds blippy loops as the horns – trumpeter Patrick Adams and tenor saxophonist Ayumi Ishito – enter regally over the sway of bassist Dan Stein and drummer Arthur Vint. “In our little house, the walls are slowly crumbling down,” Selin asserts brightly: the band take it out with an enigmatic wash that dissolves into reflecting-pool piano. Does this fit the zeitgeist, or what?

The second song, Bear is a catchy, tantalizingly brief anthem, bursting out of a delicate thicket of pizzicato: the gist of it is facing down one’s inner demons.

The elegant web of pulsing string, keyboard and horn textures in Dreamhouse are deliciously layered: the cyborg vocals and woozy synths in contrast to the organic, sun-drenched crescendos bring to mind the NYChillharmonic in a reflective moment.

Likewise, the harmonies between the electric piano and horns in the next cut, At Play: there’s reverie but also danger in the stabbing accents and enigmatic depths. Bright, tersely incisive piano stands out against a balmy backdrop in Makeup, descending to a more organic take on Radiohead minimalism before a sweeping, tidal return.

Vint plots out a circling Afrobeat groove as Selin’s voice soars upward with the horns in Ocean’s Children, then the harmonies pulse in and out over a series of rhythmic shifts, up to a dizzying chorale of sorts. There are echoes of slow, broodingly orchestrated Portishead in Tides, Selin floating an aptly vast, dynamically shifting expanse, the horns bursting over organ and electric piano that resist complete serenity.

The Xanthoria Quartet – violinists Abby Swidler, Kate Goddard and cellist Alexandra Jones – bolster the towering grandeur of Prove to You, a soul ballad at heart beneath the flurries and uneasy maze of concentric riffage. The album’s final cut is City of Lights: just when it seems this is going to be a warmly swaying soul tune, Nicki Adams pierces the veil with his alternately biting and sagely blues-infused piano. This is the band’s best album, one of the most beguiling releases of 2022 and reason to hope this allstar cast – all of whom have their own careers in new classical music, jazz and latin sounds – continue to weave fresh spells like these.

The Juliett Class Bring Their Dark Roar to Bushwick Next Week

When’s the last there was a great, loud rock triplebill in New York that wasn’t all metal bands? One of the best lineups of the year is happening this Oct 7 at Our Wicked Lady with three groups that mix up psychedelic punk and new wave-era sounds. The centerpiece of the bill is the Electric Mess, New York’s answer to Radio Birdman. Movie Movie, who include members of that band as well as Twin Guns axeman Andrea Sicco open the night at 8. Darkly catchy, purposeful all-female power trio the Juliett Class headline at 10. The club seems oblivious to #cashalways and for the moment is onboard with the goofy online ticketing fad, which means that the cool kids with cash will most likely have to fork over $14 at the door. It’s hard to imagine a door person fumbling around with nickels and dimes in the dark.

The Juliett Class’ debut album is just out and up at Bandcamp. The first song, Shut Off is like an early version of Joy Division doing Transmission, but with a woman out front – right down to frontwoman Niabi Aquena’s wounded, angst-fueled vocals over Joan Sullivan’s incisive bass. Drummer Heather Wagner adds some theremin textures for extra swirl

They slow down for Highway Girl, a burning, swaying tune where Aquena multitracks her vocals for a haunting counterpoint. Ohio is an original, not the Neil Young protest song, the trio picking up from a slow simmer to a stomp. They wind up the album with Next Week, their Dead Souls: “I am trying to make it through next week,” is Aquena’s mantra. Simple, effective, dark and catchy and one of the best short albums of the year.

Rogers & Butler Bring Their Erudite, Classic Riffage and Guitar Anthems to the Chelsea Piers

In terms of purist, catchy rock craftsmanship in 2022, Rogers & Butler’s new vinyl record Brighter Day – streaming at Bandcamp – is as good as it gets. Guitarist Stephen Butler’s American powerpop sensibility makes a good anchor for singer Edward Rogers’ more artsy, psychedelic blend of 70s Brummie rock, Bowie surrealism and more towering European-flavored sounds, from the Church to Oasis. Their six-stringer bandmate Don Piper’s production puts luscious guitar up front with the vocals, bass and drums in the back where they belong. The duo are opening for the brilliantly lyrical Amy Rigby on a killer twinbill on Oct 3 at 7:30 PM at City Winery; you can get in for $15.

Notwithstanding the bright chord changes and singalong melodies, there’s a frequent undercurrent of unease here, echoing Rogers’ work over the past several years. Although it’s likely that a lot of the songs here date from before the plandemic, themes of alienation and despair filter to the surface in places. They open with the title track, which comes across as beefed-up Big Star: “Six feet apart or six feet underground, the choice is yours to make,” Rogers rasps sarcastically.

Where Does the World Hide rises from a skittish midtempo new wave tune to a big nocturnal alienation anthem: “Every second’s a lifetime when no one ever returns your calls,” Butler confides. They follow with Last Reply, a distantly elegaic, Beatlesque piano ballad, Chris Carmichael overdubbing himself into a one-man string orchestra.

Spiced with Joe McGinty’s Fender Rhodes, Learn to Live Again is a more lithe, sparely arranged take on Willie Nile-style powerpop, a cynical chronicle dotted with plandemic imagery, “scarred stale reminders of where we’ve been.” It’s hardly optimistic.

Marmalade Eyes, a cautionary tale about a femme fatale, begins as a wary acoustic-electric waltz, then the band morph it into a steady powerpop update on 60s psych-pop. Over layers of guitar jangle, spare piano and floating mellotron, Rogers chronicles a carefree stroll along a main street of junk shops and t-shirt vendors in A Perfect Market Day. Yet beneath the surface, in the context of the events after March 2020, it’s heartbreaking. Who knew we would ever miss something as mundane as browsing in a vintage store?

The band follow Butler’s burning garage rock-tinged stomp Desire with Cabaret, a wistful Spanish guitar waltz by Rogers that wouldn’t be out of place on an early 70s Al Stewart record. The best song on the album is The Sun Won’t Shine, a haunting, death-fixated backbeat anthem that could be ELO from the latter part of that decade but with harder production values.

The band close the record with Oh Romeo, a Celtic ballad with an elegant interweave of acoustic guitar and mandolin, and then A Brand New Tomorrow, a Daytripper knockoff with extra guitar multitracks. It was fun to watch an early incarnation of the band pulling their show together about three years ago; it’s validating to see how well these two veteran tunesmiths complement each other.

Dan Kurfirst Brings His Tranquilly Kinetic, Meditative Grooves to a Perfect Outdoor Spot

Said it before, time to say it again: drummers always pull together the best bands because everybody wants to play with the good ones. Dan Kurfirst is the latest to take centerstage with his new album Arkinetics, streaming at Bandcamp. He’s immersed himself in both Middle Eastern and Indian music, so his beats are especially well informed by touch along with unlimited kinds of boom. He’s bringing this project to the ongoing series of city garden shows on Oct 2 at 4 PM in the space at 129 Stanton St. east of Essex: the lineup includes Rodney Chapman on sax, Alexis Marcelo on keys, John Merritt on bass and Roshni Samlal on tabla. The afternoon opens at 1:30 PM with the tersely propulsive duo of Aquiles Navarro on trumpet and Tchesser Holmes on drums, followed at 2:30 by, pianist Albert Marquès’ Freedom First project featuring the poetry of unjustly convicted death row inmate Keith LaMar, and then at 3:30 singer Lisa Sokolov.

On Kurfirst’s new album, Daniel Carter plays trumpet and winds, with Damon Banks on bass, otherwise the group is the same. A handful of the tunes have samples from mystic and author Alan Watts, reflecting Kurfirst’s longstanding meditation practice and interest in spirituality. The opening number, Peace In is set to a catchy, syncopated piano-and-synth backdrop by Fima Chupakhin, with a voiceover ending with Watts’ observation that “The godhead is never an object of its own knowledge.” What’s your take on that?

A gently churning drums-and-tabla piece sets up the delicately qawwali-tinged Meditation Groove, with balmy Rhodes by Marcelo and trumpet from Carter: Silent Way Miles with delicate Indian tinges. This sets the stage for much of the rest of the album.

The lingering, Bob Belden-esque nocturnal ambience continues, Carter beginning on flute and then switching back to muted trumpet in Birth Beats 1, set against Marcelo’s saturnine glimmer.

Banks’ catchy, loopy trebly chromatic riffage anchors Ghost Killers as Kurfirst and Samlal circle around an artfully orchestrated series of crescendos from Marcelo’s Rhodes while Carter raises the anxious ante with his sax. Dreamscape is aptly titled: with the hypnotic tabla, Kurfirst’s elegant brushwork and Carter’s balmy sax, it could be a Bill Withers backing track.

Kurfirst follows the trippy, shamanic drumscape Two Chants with Not Yet, Carter’s modal sax floating uneasily over Banks’ tightly clustering, catchy bass variations and Marcelo’s spare, atmospheric lines. The group bring the album full circle with a benedictory full-band version of the opening number.

A Venomous Horror Surf Show to Kick Off Halloween Month in the East Village

New York started falling off the radar for touring rock bands a long time ago, before this blog even existed. But once in awhile one of the really great ones comes to town, and that’s happening this Saturday night, Oct 1 when one of the world’s great horror surf groups, Beware the Danger of a Ghost Scorpion headlines at Otto’s at 11 PM. In case you haven’t spent much time in the East Village lately, bring your passport. The club was an early participant in the World Economic Forum digital ID scheme, and they use an ID scanner mercilessly. Digital scanners don’t work on passports…yet.

These sepulchral Scorpions’ latest album is a searing concert recording from The Worthern in Lowell, Massachusetts on July 28, 2017 and up at their Bandcamp page as a name-your-price download.

They open the show with the grimy, surprisingly bluesy twin guitar attack of Boris Frankenstein’s Nightmare, complete with trick ending. Then they hit their signature chromatic menace with Caught Dead – it isn’t long before one of the guitarists, who go by goofy stage names, starts shedding toxic sparks of tremolo-picking.

They ease their way into Texas Blood Money with a drifting, muted psychedelic interlude before they hit the song’s grim trail-riding theme. They mash up some Led Zep-style riffage around an evil snaky surf theme in Straight to Darkness, then blast their way through I’m Shy, which is anything but and has some tantalizing twin lead riffage.

As Hot As Hell, with its luscious web of chords and intricate counterpoint, is the best song in the set and underscores the level of craft in these guys’ songs: never mind the horror film shtick. The set’s next number, Red River Tombstone Hustle is sort of a syncopated pseudo-redneck Munsters Theme.

The masked foursome careen further off the rails in She’s Howlin’ over one of the snappier basslines in the set, with a twistedly sarcastic blues breakdown toward the end. They go back to a pretty unhinged noir bolero chordal intertwine in Planet Slime and follow with Haintmaker, a catchy pastiche of minor-key blues riffs awash in reverb and a little feedback. They close the show with a pretty desperately charging take of the the title track from their killer debut ep, The Legend of Goatman’s Bridge. Grab this macabre gem while you can.

One of New York’s Best Powerpop Bands Stands Up For the People of Ukraine

The only side this blog takes as far as the war in Ukraine is concerned is with the people against the governments. Zelensky is a World Economic Forum puppet and evil AF. Putin is just as horrible: he claims to have poisoned the entire Russian army with a domestic version of the lethal Astra Zeneca injection. As usual, it’s the people of Ukraine and Russia who are being screwed. For those who’d like to help civilians in Ukraine, there’s a benefit concert on Sept 30 at Otto’s with a very diverse lineup playing to benefit Razom For Ukraine. Artists on the bill include songwriter and visual artist Kassaye Selassie, Granite to Glass, Americana harmony duo Raising Daughters, the reliably ferocious Giftshop, edgy powerpop songwriter Abbie Roper, country-folk two-piece Plane Station, sardonic powerpopstress Carissa Johnson and others.

The night’s centerpiece is the smart, wickedly tuneful Giftshop, who have been featured on this page before and play a slashing mix of dark powerpop and punk at 8 PM. They’ve gotten a lot of press here, not just because they’re a good band, but because they were pioneers in making practically their entire discography available as free downloads. It’s the best possible advertising for their live show.

One album of theirs that hasn’t made it to the front page here til now is their Blue Monster record, from 2017. It captures the moment when they transitioned from  the harder, original punk sound into the darker, sleeker, more lyrically rich territory they’ve been mining in more recent years.

The opening number is Despicable, a catchy riff-driven dis song that seems designed for audience participation. Track two is Cill the Choreographer, which with a luscious blend of Fender Twin guitar sonics could be a New York version of the Avengers. And it’s even more venomous.

The band hit a slashing minor key pulse in track three, Dangerous, frontwoman Meghan Taylor sending out a word of warning to everyone on the junkie tip. Then she and the band flip the script with Doncha Know, a detour into lingering Lynchian Julee Cruise pop.

Red Letter Day comes across as the UK Subs with a young Belinda Carlisle out front. Spooky Halloween Christmas is a ghoulishly good punkabilly tune to get you psyched for next month (and New York Music Daily’s upcoming, annual monthlong Halloween celebration!). They close the album with a brilliantly turbocharged cover of the Motels classic Only the Lonely. Grab this while it lasts.

Giftshop are also on a killer twinbill at the Parkside with the similarly fiery, female-fronted Castle Black on Oct 21 at 8 PM.

A Magical, Deviously Dynamic, Cutting-Edge Debut Album From Violinist Sarah Bernstein’s Veer Quartet

Violinist Sarah Bernstein inhabits one of the most magically otherworldly and distinctive sound worlds around. She’s the rare composer who can write catchy, riff-based microtonal music, and she’s also a rapturous improviser. One of the most enjoyable concerts anyone at this blog has been at over the past few years was an afternoon with her intricate Veer Quartet in an East Village community garden in the fall of 2019.

Shortly thereafter, she recorded her debut album with the group: of all the releases which were derailed by the 2020 plandemic, this is arguably the best and is up at Bandcamp. It’s more chromatically focused than microtonal, and it’s the high point among Bernstein’s many and often somewhat more jazz-oriented albums. She and her bandmates – violinist Sana Nagano. violist Leonor Falcon and cellist Nick Jozwiak – are playing the album release show this Halloween at 8 PM at the Zurcher Gallery at 33 Bleecker St. off Lafayette. Cover is $20. And Nagano has a show with her louder but similarly otherworldly Atomic Pigeons band on Sept 28 at 8 PM at Mama Tried in Gowanus.

The quartet open the first number on the new record. Frames No.1 with an irresistibly goofy joke, then Jozwiak racewalks a bassline, Falcon climbs and descends with an uneasy calm. The group coalesce, first with stabbing unison motives that expand into spacious washes, gracefully dancing pizzicato and another couple of ridiculous jokes juxtaposed with bracing glissandos and rhythmic accents. All string quartets should be this diversely funny – and not just when they’re playing Beethoven.

There’s a sense of longing and loss in the second cut, News Cycle Progression, a diptych which begins lingering and resonant and shifts to a series of increasingly agitated, incisive flickers; Bernstein makes a palimpsest out of them at the end.

The group open the album’s big epic, Clay Myth as a ballad without words, Bernstein’s wistful melody over a hazy vamp from the rest of the ensemble. An enigmatic, blues-tinged solo from Jozwiak over circular pizzicato eventually cedes for a tantalizingly acerbic variation on the opening theme. The quartet take it out with a bouncy, tightly ornamented, increasingly biting folk-tinged violin theme and a couple of unexpected detours.

Bernstein interpolates stabbing riffage within an uneasy, steadily crescendoing theme in World Warrior, then the individual voices square off. With its paint-peeling, slithery breaks it’s the closest thing to violin metal here.

The ensemble open Nightmorning with a stern heroic theme, Bernstein quickly disassembling and scattering it to the wind across a vast, mostly vacant lot. A shivery, cello-fueled return, simmering fires bobbing up among slides and misty microtonal harmonies follow in turn, with striking hints of a cheery swing jazz tune. Ligeti’s most haunting work from the 1950s comes to mind: it’s the most adventurous and gripping piece here.

There’s a similarly somber, circling, Bartokian sensibility as well as a furtive Bernard Herrmann passage in the final cut, Hidden, a hauntingly insistent coda. Barring the unforeseen, you’ll see this on the best albums of 2022 page here at the end of the year.

Zoh Amba Brings Her Thoughtful Intensity to Brooklyn Next Week

Tenor saxophonist Zoh Amba draws comparisons to Albert Ayler, but ultimately she’s her own animal, more influenced by the blues in a JD Allen vein. Isaiah Collier is also a reference point, but where he goes completely feral, Amba is more likely to reach for biting, sometimes acidic Jackie McLean incisions. Amba is leading a quintet with Matt Hollenberg on guitar, Micah Thomas on piano, Thomas Morgan on bass and Marc Edwards on drums at Roulette on Sept 27 at 8 PM. You can get in for $25 in advance.

You can hear a little more than half of her latest album O Life, O Light at Bandcamp – unfortunately, the vinyl of this killer trio session with bassist William Parker and drummer Francisco Mela is sold out. The opening number is Mother’s Hymn: variations on a somber, Birmingham-era Coltrane style theme stripped to its broodingly rustic oldtime gospel roots. Parker bows plaintive responses to Amba’s slow blues riffs as she rises to increasingly imploring intonations. Almost imperceptibly, she takes her blue notes further down toward calm as Mela raises the energy with hypnotic waves of echo effects while Parker fills a familiar role as rock-solid anchor. The interlude where he joins Mela’s vivid splashes against the shoreline is over way too soon The trio bring it full circle in almost fourteen understatedly intense minutes.

The second number, the title track, begins sort of a reverse image with hints of calypso and New Orleans echoes, but it isn’t long before Amba starts with the insistent, trilling motives as Mela builds concentric circles and Parker artfully expands his own modal terrain. Again, Amba brings the ambience back around to a solemn rusticity.

She switches to flute for Mountains in the Predawn Light, pulling back on the attack atop the rhythm section’s slinky chassis. With Mela’s judiciously colorful accents around the kit and every piece of hardware within reach, this is a GREAT drum-and-bass record. There’s also a brief bonus track, Satya reprising the initial theme where Amba cuts loose right off the bat. Finding the perfect balance between melody and squall is always daunting, but these three celebrate that here with purpose and cool triumph.

East First Street Is Positively the Place to Be For Jazz This Sunday

The series of free jazz concerts in Lower East Side parks this fall is an especially good one, and continues into the second week of October. One of the best of the bunch is this Sunday, Sept 25, starting at 1:30 PM with alto saxophonist Aakash Mittal – who’s also scheduled to take a rare turn on clarinet – joined by vocalist Jasmine Wilson and drummer Lesley Mok. Mittal is a beast, a ferociously dynamic improviser who’s immersed himself in both Indian and Middle Eastern music and is not to be missed. At 2:30 bassist William Parker takes a rare turn on sintir, percussion and double reeds alongside Hamid Drake on percussion, which promises to be a good, North African-inspired segue. Alexis Marcelo closes out the night on keys with Adam Lane on bass and Michael Wimberly on drums in the garden at 33 East 1st St.

As you might guess, the artist on the bill who’s most recently appeared on album is Parker: his discography is longer than some books. This could be wrong, but it looks like the latest addition to that body of work is Welcome Adventure Vol. 2, sixty percent of which is streaming at Bandcamp.

The generally august and terse bassist gets off to an unusual racewalking start in the opening number, Sunverified, in tandem with Matthew Shipp’s scampering, sunsplashed piano over drummer Gerald Cleaver’s tumbles and bright cymbals. Daniel Carter’s sax slowly expands from a balmy, anchoring role to biting modalities: lots of outside-the-box playing here.

Track two is Blinking Dawn, Carter blasting through the blinds by himself and having fun with harmonics before Cleaver comes knocking at the door. Shipp punches in hard as Carter’s clarinet floats sepulchrally in Mask Production – a reference to CDC pre-plandemic stockpiling, maybe? Parker’s fluttering and then tiptoeing approach signals Shipp’s equally phantasmagorical stroll. These guys have worked together since forever and this is one of the best things they’ve ever put on cassette (still available at the Bandcamp page!).

The first of the tracks you can only hear on that cassette, at least for now, is Wordwide, which the quartet begin as a lingering nocturnal tableau with Carter on sax, but Shipp is restless and that spreads to Cleaver. The contrast between Carter’s floating sax and Shipp’s elegantly sharp-teethed gearwheels is one of the album’s high points.

The closing number is Da Rest Is Story (good titles here, dudes), Cleaver’s slinky and increasingly animated groove underpinning Carter’s defiant microtonalities as Shipp mines his signature icy, starry modalities. The saxophonist’s mournful circles over the piano’s eerily insistent chime are another of this record’s many attractions – all of which would probably sell more cassettes if everyone could hear them.

Lara Hope & the Ark-Tones Bring Their Irreverent Retro Rock to the East Village

Lara Hope & the Ark-Tones are connoisseurs of retro Americana sounds, from rockabilly to 60s soul music. They’re playing Otto’s on Sept 24 at 10 PM; for those who might say, “Eww, the East Village on a Saturday night,” keep in mind that so many of the touristy types who made the neighborhood a place to avoid on the weekend have left town.

Out of all the albums Hope and the band have put out over the years, the very best of them all might be their snarky, irreverent Songs in the Key of Quarantine, streaming at Bandcamp. The core of the band, singer/guitarist Hope and her bassist husband Matthew Goldpaugh put this spot-on, satirical ep out during the darkest months of 2020 with a little help from their bandmates.

The first track is Social Distancing Blues:

Can’t give no one a hug
Can’t hold my baby tight
You got to wear a hazmat suit to get into a fight

And it gets better from there.

Bad Time to Quit Drinking is a grimly funny tune: the gist of it is that there are other things you can do to get high. No Time to Get Bored is a shuffle where Lara chronicles all the goofy things you can do when you’re been put under house arrest by a totalitarian regime.

She shows off some snarling gutter blues guitar chops on You Are Essential, a duet with her husband where they send a grateful shout out to the retail and healthcare workers who kept the economy going when many of the rest of us were depersoned during the endless, bleak days of 2020.

She drops her guard for the sad, spare, plainspoken acoustic soul ballad When Will I See My Grandma Again? Then she picks up the pace with Go Big & Stay Home, a scruffy number which seems a lot more cynical than optimistic. The last song on the album is a cover and it’s not very good – and it’s by a corporate rock guy with blood on his hands. He made his drummer take the lethal Covid injection early during the band’s 2021 tour, and the drummer died after one of the first shows.

The band’s latest album is Here to Tell The Tale, a full-band record also up at Bandcamp, which came out last year. Lead guitarist Eddie Rion and drummer Jeremy Boniello scramble through a catchy, diverse mix that starts with a simmering ghoulabilly tune, then dips into smoky go-go sounds, vintage Loretta Lynn style C&W and jump blues.

The last time this blog was in the house at one of the band’s shows, it was in 2018 at an Amsterdam Avenue bar which had neither stage nor PA system. Running everything through their amps, the band managed to keep a noisy neighborhood crowd at this onetime dive under control, no small achievement.